South Korea, like no other country, understands very well the importance of having a good, efficient army. The reason for this is one, but very compelling. Literally in 40 km from the South Korean capital of Seoul, immediately after the demilitarized zone, there are units of more than one million North Korean army, for which, despite all the talk of politicians about “friendship with brothers in blood” and recently developed inter-Korean economic cooperation it is the capitalist South that is the main adversary. Although since 2006, South Korea, primarily for political reasons, has ceased to officially refer to the DPRK as the “main adversary”, but for the military everything is still the same: both from the South and the North along the four-kilometer demilitarized zone dividing the two parts of the Korean Peninsula, concentrated about 70 percent of the armed forces of both countries. Southerners are also calling for vigilance and other statistics: in just half an hour, the North Korean long-range artillery from its current position could bring down about half a million projectiles to Seoul.
In the South Korean Armed Forces (VS) since 2005, the multibillion-dollar plan for reforming the armed forces has been implemented. It laid down the reduction of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea by almost a quarter - from the current 690 to the 500 thousand people. It should be noted that both in the capitalist South and in the socialist North, the army is recruited mainly according to the draft principle. However, if the Republic of Kazakhstan (South), with a population of 50 million, has an army of 690 thousand and term service in two years, planning to reduce both the strength of the Armed Forces and the terms of military service, then the DPRK (North), with a population of 23 million, has an army of 1 million 100 thousand, the period of mandatory service of seven years and does not intend to reduce anything.
Two types of future combat robots
According to experts, the South Korean army is forced to reduce its number, including because the country’s birth rate is one of the lowest in the world. As a result, it is predicted that the country's armed forces will not be able to receive a sufficient number of recruits in the near future. Personnel plan to compensate for the shortage of more modern and powerful weapons, including robots, which will reduce potential human casualties in the event of armed conflict.
The program of reforming the armed forces of the Republic of Korea provides for the creation and adoption by 2020 of the two main types of robots, the development of which is parallel. The first type will be a small device weighing several tens of kilograms, the second will be a full-fledged fighting machine the size of a small BMP.
The defense development agency of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Information and Communication are involved in the project of creating combat robots. The military are responsible for creating the mechanics of the model, most technologies and weapons, and the latter for the remote control system and other electronic stuffing.
As expected, a real-life model of the first type of military robots being created should appear already in 2011. He has already received his rather curious name - “Kyonma”, which in Korean means “dog-horse”. It is not yet known exactly what this robot will look like; however, according to the published drawings, these “soldiers of the future” will be approximately 40 cm tall and resemble sphinxes without wings with weapons or equipment installed on them. Its weight is not more than 20 kilograms, which will allow to transfer it to one person. The robot will have either eight wheels or six legs, which will allow the machine to move like an insect, climb stairs and overcome almost any obstacles. This machine will be able to conduct exploration, search and observation on the ground, as well as to detect mines. The universal equipment platform also makes it possible to equip it with small arms, visual observation tools, chemical and radiation detectors. The government of Kazakhstan has allocated 33,4 a billion South Korean won (about 40 million US dollars) for the implementation of this part of the program.
The next step is to create more powerful and improved samples of this type of robots. Their appearance is scheduled no later than 2013 of the year. They will be equipped with a variety of weapons, including large-caliber machine guns, and will be able to work both independently and by executing commands from the operator at the command center.
In parallel, the creation of a second type of combat robots. These will already be full-fledged heavy combat vehicles weighing over a tonne, shaped like a BMP. Their tentative name is EAV (Experimental Autonomous Vehicle). The first working models were already demonstrated, and a number of tactical and technical characteristics became known. Thus, the model shown at 2006 at the exhibition was 3,1 m long, one and a half meters high and weighed 1200 kg. The travel speed is up to 30 km / h, and it works on batteries. The lighter and agile version weighed 900 kg, developed speeds up to 45 km / h, but it was already working on gasoline.
EAV is equipped with a large-caliber machine gun, video camera, radioactivity sensors, communications equipment and other equipment. It is also possible to install more powerful artillery weapons or guided projectiles. The self-propelled is controlled by an operator located in the rear at a distance of 1 km from the front line, from where he manages all onboard equipment, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), a television reconnaissance camera and a laser scanner.
It is assumed that the EAV will perform two main tasks - reconnaissance and combat operations. According to the representative of the South Korean "Center for the development of intelligent robots", this type of combat vehicles can be especially useful in the conditions of conducting combat operations in the city.
According to the plans of the Defense Development Agency (AOR) of the Republic of Korea, the delivery of weapons to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan should begin with the 2015 year. 15 billion won (about 17 million dollars) has been allocated to this project. As the manager of the group of creation of combat robots AOR Pak Young Un said, at the moment there are already technologies that allow you to create a single combat vehicle base. “As soon as official applications for the purchase of these robots are received from representatives of the army, the air force and the navy, we will start building machines adapted for the specific needs of each branch of the military,” Puck explained.
Robots as part of the new concept of warfare
At the same time, Koreans do not hide the fact that they borrowed the concept of developing such a yet new type of combat vehicles from the United States, where the 30 billionth project of creating future combat systems of the future (FCS - Future Combat System) is underway.
In many respects, again, under the influence of American ideas and novelties in the general plan of reforming the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan before 2020, a great deal of attention was paid to the new concept of warfare, in which robots play an important role.
In the most general approximation, this concept in relation to robots looks as follows. In addition, it will be possible that an easy-to-use lightweight robot will first produce a small portable reconnaissance robot with a minimum size, while controlling it. There will be a constant exchange of information and coordination of actions between all participants in the hostilities. At the initial stage, it is planned that robots will operate only under direct human control through remote control systems. However, then, as technology improves, the “iron soldiers” will be given more and more independence.
From words to deeds
Koreans have already proved that they are not just dreaming of the appearance of combat robots, but also make real steps. In the past two or three years, a sufficiently large number of robots ready for use have appeared in South Korea. Although they are not yet the planned complex types of machines “Könma” or EAV, they are already capable of performing combat missions.
Thus, the South Korean military contingent Zaytun, stationed in Iraq, is already widely used by the robot of mine clearance Robhaz, created by the Korean company Yujin. This machine independently searches for mines, as well as poisonous substances and radioactive materials, giving a special sound signal when they are detected.
In addition, another South Korean company Samsung Techwin Co. with the support of the government, has already created a working version of the “border guard robot”. According to the representative of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Lee Jae Hoon, the machine has detection and tracking systems for the enemy, as well as a weapon - the K-3 light machine gun. In addition, the robot has a built-in speech unit that allows you to issue warnings to a potential intruder. The machine is equipped with conventional, night and infrared vision devices. The equipment allows you to distinguish moving objects the size of a person: in the daytime - at a distance of up to two kilometers, at night - up to a kilometer. When an intruder approaches, despite the warnings of the robot, it is possible to automatically open fire to kill. The 117 kg device weighs, see its height 120. As it became known, at the end of 2007, the South Korean Ministry of Defense began to install this type of robots along the 248 km demilitarized zone separating the Republic of Korea from the DPRK.
The new is not easy, but the future
Of course, it cannot be said that everything for South Korea in the field of creating combat robots is going very smoothly. Enough and serious obstacles.
There are still problems with the recognition by the robot of human speech, where this is provided. If the creators are ready to experiment, then the military itself, to whom, in theory, the “iron soldiers” should help, treat the robots with some skepticism. This is especially true of giving cars such autonomy that would allow them to open fire on their own. On a purely psychological level, there is a fear reinforced by many books from the science fiction genre that the robot will “go berserk” and start shooting at its own. In this regard, at the current (initial) stage, emphasis is placed on the introduction of robots that would perform the functions of reconnaissance, mine clearance, etc. without equipping them with weapons.
It remains an open question of introducing new combat vehicles into a standard combat scheme with specific units. It is one thing to arrange robots along the border, where they, in fact, perform the role of more advanced surveillance cameras with the possibility of firing, another is when robots are supposed to perform serious combat missions. A major who asked to give only his last name, Li, who serves in one of the motorized infantry divisions near Seoul, told the Bratishki correspondent: “I heard about, and even seen, the robots leading the mine clearing, but the robots actually stood up and worked on the battlefield of the function of soldiers - in this regard, at the level of specific parts, even preparatory work is not yet conducted. ”
At the same time, all these problems will be solved sooner or later, and combat robots will be widely used in the armed forces of South Korea. And this is not a question of the distant future, but of the coming years. Moreover, these improvements are incorporated in the very concept of the development of the armed forces. The same major Lee admitted: “At one time, we also shied away from computers, however, as we were threatened that they would be dismissed from the army for computer illiteracy, everyone quickly learned everything. They will give the command - we will put the robots into operation, ”the officer assured, recognizing that“ now the incentive is very good: the army is being reduced and it is in many respects for officers, so that in order not to take off, we will master everything instantly. ”
In general, we note that combat robots are very important, but only one of the many components of the overall strategy for the development of the robot industry in South Korea. According to the plans of the government of the country, by 2013, the Republic of Kazakhstan should reach the third - after the USA and Japan - a place in the world in terms of the scale and development of the industry, occupying 15% of the world market in this sphere. It is planned that soon the robots will appear in the most diverse areas of the country's life, and by the 2010 year - in every family. Robots will tidy up apartments, teach children, read books aloud, connect to the Internet, order food and do a lot of other things. Within five years, South Korea intends to export robots abroad in the amount of two billion dollars, while producing them for 30 billions. It is on robots that the bet is made as an industry that will ensure profits in the future. By 2020, South Korea is expected to receive more revenue from this industry than from its extremely powerful and developed automotive industry.
For such ambitious plans have their own reasons. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan recently published statistics according to which in 2004, in the whole of South Korea, only 6 thousands of robots were sold, and in 2005, already 40 thousands. In 2006, this figure was 100 thousand and is expected to double in 2007. Although the robots here are primarily referring to devices that clean the floors themselves, but the growth of interest and demand is obvious. The reasons for this desire to join the mechanical assistants, many see in the fact that the population of our planet is aging, and the birth rate falls.
According to Mr. O. Sun Rock, who oversees the project for creating robots in the Ministry of Information and Communication of the Republic of Korea, there is nothing fantastic in this. "Very soon, these devices will become an integral part of our life, performing a variety of functions - from teachers and housewives to police and military," - he stressed.
As you can see, "robotization" is provided for the whole of South Korean society, therefore there is hardly any doubt that in the armed forces they will very soon be "put into operation". Especially since the “go-ahead” has already been given, the money has been allocated, the plans have been laid out and implemented.